I just got the Phaidon 55 book of photos by Eugene Richards, with a searing introductory text by Chuck Bowden. The two men have worked together and are working together in Richards’ Brooklyn house. Richards is choosing 55 photos for the book. Bowden is writing about Richards and his 55 photos: “A friend touches the hair of his mentally ill son. Gene gives him the picture and the friend says, ‘That is not a nice picture. But it is true.’ . . . A woman in a kitchen and he says, ‘This is the story that got me fired.’ He says, ‘Take this check and shove it up your ass.'”
Every photo in the book has an accompanying text: (previous page) Funeral for Eddie Collins, Forrest City, Arkansas, 1971, followed by a statement that always begins with “and” (no capital letter, no period — there is the photograph, and there is an addendum of words that don’t end): “and they’re getting maybe fifty cents for carrying the stiff, the trees stand bare, the hats and coats look solid and down and then the guy turns, flashes that smile, and you suddenly believe in your work because you have seen life and caught life at the burying ground”
I come to the image on page 75 and to its accompanying statement. I have worked for years to explain that although they too were aggressors in the civil wars that destroyed Yugoslavia, Serbs are people — but because they are Serbs, for the magazine and for the world, their pain is of no account.